Conspiracy to Kill the French
When they had time to
converse with the French at Onondaga, he learned the fate of those left behind
just after their departure from Montreal. The group behind them did embark
after Radisson's expedition had left, following close behind them all the way
to the fort. When that had arrived at the island where the massacre of the six
French had taken place, they had found a Huron woman half starved from hunger.
She had watched Radisson's group pass and then had scourged the area for
leftover food but could find only grapes. She had resolved to face her own
death until they noticed her hiding in a hollowed-out tree trunk. The Jesuit
father, seeing that she was a converted Christian, took special care of her
until she saw a man load his gun. She was convinced that she was going to be
killed and ran off again. They could not find her and continued on their way to
Now that the original group
was reunited at their appointed destination, there were many French who were
keen on returning to Quebec because of a strong feeling of suspicion and
mistrust among them towards the Iroquois. After six weeks of recovering from
the fever that had hit them at the camp, thirteen Frenchmen and one Jesuit
father decided to return. Radisson was part of the party that would take them
part of the way back. It was a somewhat tearful farewell as everyone was aware
of the potential perils they faced journeying back to the safety of the colony.
On the way back to Onondaga,
Radisson's escort group stopped off at an Iroquois village and heard that three
renegade Hurons had found the starving woman. Not seeing that she was of their
own nation, they stripped her naked, as was their custom when finding someone
lost in the woods, and brought her to the Jesuit father who had first found her
some time before. The blackrobe was living in this village and he considered it
a miracle of God that she had been found again. But despite the special
attention the father gave her, the Iroquois who traveled from Montreal with the
Frenchmen took her as their slave.
During the six days Radisson
stayed in this village, there was another incident among these Iroquois. There
was a man who was warned for his insolence because he had not conferred with
the chief of the village. The man had taken two women as slaves that included
the women's two children. As was custom among them, any captives must be
presented to the council so the chief can decide what to do with them. This man
chose not to consult with the council so the elders confronted him.
"Who are these slaves," they
"They're mine," he answered.
The man's uncle replied to him.
"Nephew, you must know that
all slaves, men as well as women, are first brought before the council, and we
alone dispose of them." The uncle gave a nod to some soldiers who stood nearby,
and they took the two women and knocked them in the head, murdering them. One
of the soldiers took the child, put his foot on the child's head, grabbed the
child's legs with his hands and then turned the body so that the head was
twisted off from the body. Another soldier took the other child from its
mother's breast by the feet and knocked its head against the trunk of a tree.
During his time living among the Iroquois, Radisson had seen others like these
captives slain because they could not serve properly or because children
hindered their mothers from working hard.
Just before Radisson's
escort group planned to leave the village that was five miles from the French
fort, they heard about the Huron who had escaped from the massacre on the
island. After suffering in the forests from hunger and privation for many
weeks, he had arrived in the village and spoke of wrathful revenge against the
French, especially against the Jesuit fathers. He said that fathers had
betrayed the Hurons, and that he would bestow the same upon them if he ever met
a Frenchman again. He thanked heaven that he was still alive and warned the
Iroquois not to let the French build a fort in their country. He reminded them
what had happened to the Nation of the Stags who had let the French build a
fort in their country only to be decimated by disease, which was the result of
their sorcery. In a society that had an insatiable thirst for war, Radisson was
concerned to hear these words so close to where he was now living in Onondaga.
They were barely into autumn
when Radisson and some other Frenchmen heard that the Iroquois were conspiring
treason against the French. They learned that the Iroquois planned to raise an
army of 500 men from their own nation as well as warriors from the Anojot
to assist them. They believed they could take the fort with ease because they
were esteemed to be the best fighters of all the Indian nations, and because if
they made a concerted effort to appease the French by giving them gifts and
keeping the peace it could be a surprise attack. Most of the French didn't know
the Iroquois language but since Radisson understood both the language and
customs, he knew they were preparing for an assault. Their daily exercises were
feasting, singing war songs, throwing their hatchets and breaking kettles.
"We must resolve to be on
our guard being in the middle of our enemy's land," he said to his countrymen.
"For this purpose we must begin to make provisions for the future." Radisson
caught wind that a group of Anojot was marching toward their fort to
declare open war on the French. He knew this tribe often attacked Frenchmen
around Montreal who wandered off too far from the safety of the settlement. He
saw the only sensible thing they could do was to leave, but the problem was
that they had no boats.
The French who were in the
fort had their spies in the villages that surrounded Onondaga, many of whom
were the Jesuit priests who administered to the natives at their own peril.
Radisson too visited the elders at the council by giving gifts and hearing from
them bits and pieces of information that gave the French a good idea that the
council had discussed the problem of the French, and thus wanted to ask some
questions directly to the Jesuit fathers, who they regarded as sorcerers and
medicine men. From these answers they would make a decision about what would
happen to the French.
Knowing that the Iroquois
were planning on a visit to the fort, they prepared to hide the evidence that
they were building boats. They built a double floor in the hall of the fort to
build the ship so that the Onandoga, being ignorant of their way of building,
could not take any notice of their cunning. It was successful so they continued
to build the boats without their knowledge, making an effort to keep up
relations with the Iroquois in the meantime. These boats were big so only two
were required to transport the entire population of the fort. (The boats were
based on the measurements stated in the Old Testament when Noah was given the
precise measurements for the ark. Proportionally decressing these measurements,
the boats would have a large bottom that would be big enough to carry everyone
from the fort as well as their things). It was Radisson's opinion that the
Iroquois wouldn't suspect their plan because Quebec was too far and too
difficult to reach, being full of rapids and swift rivers.